huh* . . .

One of the challenges (for me) in doing PhD by research is remaining in touch with other topics, subjects and debates, even when such things are within my own discipline (i.e. Pauline studies).  Part of the reason for this comes from the fact that, for the past two years, my day has been fairly routine:  I come to the office around 7.30am, read and write until lunch time (noonish), go home for lunch, come back to the office around 1.00pm, read and write some more before finally going home for the day.  No classes, no lectures, no debates with fellow students in the office, nothing.  Just me, my books, my laptop, my coffee and my brain. 

Another part of the reason has been my focus of study.  When I’m doing my reading and writing during the respective times, I tend to be dealing with materials solely related to 1 Corinthians.  Sure, my project is concerned with multiple topics as well as multiple interpretative approaches in Pauline theology, but the focus remains on how these topics and approaches speak to the argument of 1 Corinthians.  If I were dealing the same topics and/or approaches as found in the other Pauline letters, I would need to be doing a different PhD.  The net result of this was that I started to become too isolated in my research, which is to say the abovementioned ‘challenge’ is my own fault. 

To remedy this, I decided to schedule into my day a time when I could get back in touch with Pauline studies in general.  One of the ways in which I did this was by finding lecture-series on iTunesU related to my discipline as well as those that are simply of interest to me.**  With regard to the latter category, Moises Silva‘s course on ‘New Testament Introduction’ (from Westminster Theological Seminary) is quite good.  With regard to my own discipline, I have recently begun listening to Knox Chamblin‘s course in ‘Pauline Studies’ (from Reformed Theological Seminary).  It was something mentioned in Chamblin’s first talk on Galatians that prompted this post. 

Chamblin makes two cases, one for the date and the other for the recipient of Galatians.  With regard to the latter, Chamblin argues in favour of the so-called ‘south Galatian theory’, which means that the churches in mind for Paul were those established during the so-called ‘first missionary journey’.  I have no real problems with this.  With regard to time of composition, Chamblin argues for an early date for the composition of Galatians–i.e. pre-Jerusalem Council, which means prior to 48 or 49 CE, which necessarily means that Galatians is Paul’s first letter.  I do have some problems with this suggestion, but that is another discussion for another day.

However, in making his case for a pre-Council composition, Chamblin argues (rightly) that Paul’s concern in Galatians is for Gentile-converts to be accepted into the people  of God without requiring them to adhere to the Torah–specifically the rite of circumcision.  Since Galatians was written before the Jerusalem Council, Paul’s little spat with Cephas/Peter in Galatians 2 must necessarily (according to Chamblin) occur before to the Council as well.  Thus, when Peter makes his case in front of the elders in Jerusalem and argues for the inclusion of Gentiles without requiring circumcision (see Acts 15.6-11), Peter speaks with his confrontation with Paul in mind. 

Where I had to say, ‘Huh’* was when Chamblin flat out states:

[Peter says:] ‘No, we believe that it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved just as they [Gentiles] are.’   There it is . . .  I think Peter read Galatians before he uttered those words.’

It is with that final claim that the lecture comes to a close.  I checked out the next lecture in the series to see if Chamblin continues his thought, but he doesn’t; he moves right into an examination of the letter and its structure.  The whole ‘I think Peter read Galatians before he uttered those words’ is almost like a hit-and-run kind of claim, one that left me a bit dazed and confused.  I don’t recall seeing anyone make that sort of argument about Peter knowledge of the Galatian letter.  Has anyone else encountered that claim?  Am I missing something?

* A term that here means, ‘Well, that’s interesting’.  (And yes, I totally stole that style of explanation from Lemony Snicket).
** Interestingly enough, the vast majority of these series come from Reformed seminaries.  I have only been able to find one or two that are not from a Reformed tradition.


  1. I’ve never heard the proposal that Peter had read Galatians. It might be more plausible to say that Peter’s speech to the council was influenced by the incident in Antioch where Paul confronted Peter to his face, as recorded in Galatians 2. Undoubtedly, in the confrontation at Antioch Paul said something like what ended up in the account in Galatians, which is similar to what Peter says to the council. Running the proposal this way would not need the letter to the Galatians to precede the Jerusalem Council, only the incident at Antioch.

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